Oscar Pistorius’ defence team has called an anaesthetist to testify at the double-amputee runner’s murder trial in an attempt to counter prosecution claims that Pistorius is lying about the timeline of events on the night he killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Professor Aina Christina Lundgren was being questioned on her expertise regarding how long it takes a person to digest food after eating.
The testimony relates to an autopsy report on Reeva Steenkamp’s body that said she still had food in her stomach after she was killed by Pistorius, leading prosecutors to challenge his story that the couple ate around eight hours before he shot her through a toilet door.
An expert testifying for the prosecution said a person’s stomach is normally empty of food six hours after eating and Steenkamp ate much later on the night of the killing and not in line with Pistorius’ story.
Prosecutors say that’s because the couple were up arguing late into the night before Pistorius shot Steenkamp multiple times in the midst of a heated fight through a toilet stall door in his bathroom.
Pistorius says he mistook her for an intruder hiding behind the closed toilet stall door.
He testified the couple ate at around 7pm on the night she was killed, and they were in bed around 10pm. Pistorius shot Steenkamp after 3am on February 14, 2013.
Lundgren, who described herself as a specialist anaesthetist, testified that there a are number of factors that could have delayed the digestion process in Steenkamp to explain the food found in her stomach, including that she was a pre-menopausal woman and had been sleeping.
A pathologist who testified for the prosecution, Professor Gert Saayman, had said Steenkamp ate much later than Pistorius says, possibly even at around 1am when the runner claims they were in bed.
Lundgren said it was difficult to be exact about the rate of digestion and it was “speculative to attempt to estimate when she had last eaten”.
Chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel cross-examined Lundgren and pointed to Saayman’s findings that he could even identify vegetable and cheese matter in Steenkamp’s stomach.
“Would you not have expected the digestive process to have caused the contents to be unrecognisable after eight hours?” Nel asked Lundgren.
“I can’t comment,” she replied.
“But he can, and he did,” Nel said of Saayman’s report.
In a statement released Thursday, Pistorius’ lawyer said that an offer to buy the villa where the Olympian killed Steenkamp had been accepted and the sale was being processed.
Pistorius is selling his home in the gated community in the South African capital Pretoria to help with his legal bills. His trial is now into its seventh week of testimony.